One of the last monolingual Cherokee speakers is dead at 88

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FILE – In this March 14, 2014, file photo, monolingual Cherokee speaker Mack Vann, 83, holds the start of a handmade bow in the backyard of his hime in Briggs, Okla. Vann, among the last members of the Cherokee Nation who spoke and understand the Cherokee language and only the Cherokee language, has died at […]

Mack Vann, among the last members of the Cherokee Nation who spoke and understand the Cherokee language and only the Cherokee language, has died at the age of 88.

Nephew Gary Vann says his uncle died Monday in a Tahlequah, Oklahoma, hospital of pneumonia while undergoing treatment of an ongoing heart condition.

Mack Vann would great visitors with the word “osiyo,” the Cherokee word for “hello.” He was a descendant of Andrew Ross, brother of Cherokee Chief John Ross who led the tribe down the “Trail of Tears” from its ancestral home in Georgia to eastern Oklahoma.

He told The Associated Press in 2014 that he learned some English in school but quit after the fourth grade to help with the family farm and slowly forgot how to speak it.

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